Seattle official wants to ban two words: citizens and brownbag; New York wants to ban 50, including poverty, dinosaurs, birthdays, and Halloween.



There are certain words that offend nearly everyone. I don’t have to recount them here. Download any hip-hop hit from iTunes and you’ll hear most of them in the first 30 seconds. Curiously, liberals across the country have little to say about this crudeing-down of America’s language. But they’re on a Political Correctness binge, working overtime to find words you might use in conversations with your 85-year old grandmother and make sure they never pass your lips again. In Seattle City Hall, there’s a wonk named Elliott Bronstein at the Office of Civil Rights who is seriously recommending that the city consider a new set of standards for use of “potentially offensive” language. Two of the new no-nos?  Citizen and brown bag. Who could these words possibly offend? The Office of Civil Rights thinks the word “citizens” could hurt the feelings of non-citizens, and says “residents” is a better word. “Brown bag? Evidently, it’s loaded with racial connotations. “It used to be a way people could judge skin color,” Bronstein explained. “For a lot of particularly African-American community members, the phrase brown bag does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used, I understand, to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home,” he said. Instead of brown bag, Bronstein suggests the terms “lunch-and-learn” or “sack lunch.” Perhaps Bronstein forgot about offending the 50% of Seattle’s “residents” who were born without sacks. Or the majority of Seattle’s voters, who never “learn” anything.

Could it get any sillier? Sorry to say, it could. The State of Washington has already voted to remove gender-specific wording from official documents, including freshmen (first-years), journeymen (journey-level) and penmanship (handwriting). Not to be outdone, The New York City Department of Education takes sanitized speech to an entirely new level of meaninglessness. In designing tests for New York’s 1.1 million impressionable students, the Department of Education deliberately avoids words like “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween”, and dozens of others on city-issued tests because they could create “unpleasant emotions” among the students. I remember when tests evoked “unpleasant emotions” of possibly flunking tests, but I’m way Old School. Why ban dinosaurs? It brings up the subject of evolution. That might offend a few of the 17 fundamentalists who live in New York City.

What’s wrong with birthdays? They’re not celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses, another important minority in New York. And Halloween? That suggests official government endorsement of Paganism, which might make New York’s three million satan-worshippers feel privileged. Also, words that suggest wealth are off-limits because they could make kids feel envious. “Poverty” is on the forbidden list for reasons that are obvious to every liberal. Recently, a Department of Education spokeswoman said that nuking words like these is not censorship. “This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” she said. Piling on, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE is only giving guidance to the test developers. “So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct. This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests,” Walcott said.

What else are they being sensitive to?  Here’s a list of words that won’t make New York City’s students stress out while they’re blissfully flunking their tests. (Currently only 64.7% of New York City students graduate from high school; the other 35.3% do not.) Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological) Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs Birthday celebrations (and birthdays) Bodily functions Cancer (and other diseases) Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes) Celebrities Children dealing with serious issues Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia) Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting) Crime Death and disease Divorce Evolution Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes Gambling involving money Halloween Homelessness Homes with swimming pools Hunting Junk food In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge Loss of employment Nuclear weapons Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling) Parapsychology Politics Pornography Poverty Rap Music Religion Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan) Rock-and-Roll music Running away Sex Slavery Terrorism Television and video games (excessive use) Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters) Vermin (rats and roaches) Violence War and bloodshed Weapons (guns, knives, etc.) Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

I usually end my posts with a wiseass comment. This time, the list above should be sufficient.

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